Dorm vs. apartment: what’s best for you?

By Molly Zupan, Staff Writer

by Molly Zupan

staff writer

Finding a new living space, on or off campus, in a dorm or in an apartment, can be a hassle. If you find yourself stuck, here are some pros and cons of dorm and apartment life, from the perspective of someone who has lived in both.

Dorm life

Utilities included

Unlike apartments, internet, cable, water and electricity are not an additional charge in dorms. They are included in room and board fees, so students don’t need to deal with the hassle of extra bills. Apartments typically charge monthly for these services.

Meal plan

All residence halls require students to sign up for a meal plan, so you are provided with a variety of food at particular times throughout the day. Students in apartments can also sign up for a meal plan, but this is an extra cost that many students choose to avoid.

Less to take care of

Compared with apartments, dorms require less cleaning simply because there is less space. Common areas and public bathrooms are cleaned by maintenance, so you’ll only be responsible for things like making your bed or throwing away food. If you’re a fan of simplicity and less responsibility, a dorm may be better for you because there will be less to worry about.

Social life

In residence halls, students are surrounded by one another and have the opportunity to connect and make friends. Hall coordinators plan events and socials regularly for students to engage with one another and become comfortable in their new environment. If you are the type that is looking to make new friends, then check out dorms because they may be best for you to build up that network that you need.

Resident advisor (RA)

RA’s are available to all students in all dorms, and they are there for a reason. Reach out to them for moral support, comfort, study tips and advice. Some RA’s like to give out sweet treats, like goody bags or words of encouragement. RA’s are usually older and can offer good advice when you’re stuck on a difficult decision.

Extra amenities

Most residence halls on campus also come equipped with other spaces for your pleasure and use. Study rooms, pianos, pool tables, Ping-Pong tables and more can be found throughout halls on campus. These spaces are available to all residents and are great places to go if your roommate is napping or if you want to study with a friend.


If you frequently sleep through your alarm, or like to wake up minutes before class, a dorm may be best for you. All residence halls are located on-campus and are likely much closer to your classes. Dorms may also bring you closer to important places on campus such as the Undergraduate Library or the Main Quad.

Apartment living

More space

An obvious advantage of living in an apartment is more space. Standard apartments include a kitchen, bathroom and living space, as well as individual bedrooms. Some units even come with individual laundry units, so you can get your laundry done when you need to. A kitchen also gives you the freedom to cook up whatever you’d like, or cook nothing at all. It’s up to you.

Lower cost

Room and board fees can be expensive for some students, so apartment life may be the better option. Keep in mind, first-year students are required to live on-campus, but after that, apartments become an option. There are a wide variety of apartments available in the Urbana-Champaign area, with varying prices, which are based on size, location and quality, among other things. Choose the price that is best for you, considering all of the amenities that come with it.


In residence halls and dorms, this is hard to come by. In apartments, however, privacy is a lot more available. Even if you choose a shared apartment arrangement, which are abundant in Urbana-Champaign, you will typically have a private bedroom. In an apartment, you will be able to nap, change your clothes, practice for a presentation or just watch TV, all in complete solitude.

Food freedom

Students in apartments are not required to buy a meal plan, so you can spend your money on food that you want specifically. This method is typically cheaper than the University’s meal plans and can save you money for other needs such as cleaning supplies or textbooks. Breaking out the cooking ware can teach you good life skills and relieve stress from your long day at class.

Less regulation

In dorms, students may have strictly enforced codes of conduct. Apartments give you much more independence and freedom and allow you to come and go as you please. There tend to be fewer restrictions on what you can do with your own space. For example, candles and toasters are prohibited in the dorms for safety reasons. Those who prefer independence should consider signing an apartment lease.

Molly is a sophomore in FAA.

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